The line of ethical conduct in a relationship between a coach and a high school student can often be blurred. It's also one of the areas in which school children can be both positively influenced or put at severe, dangerous risk. Even more than with traditional teachers, coaches often wield an extraordinary amount of authority over their athletes and, when they cross over into the classroom, their students, because of their personalities.
Former Lake Washington boys basketball coach Barry Johnson — KangHoops.com
The second part of that equation may have rarely been more obvious than in the case of a Lake Washington (Wash.) High boys basketball coach Barry Johnson, who now stands accused of sexual harassment with students in his class, including an incident in which he allegedly invoked the Jerry Sandusky scandal to make a crude sexual joke. What may have begun as an honest attempt to comfort a troubled student gradually built into what is alleged to be troublingly inappropriate relationships which included a handful of disgusting comments by the coach, actions which eventually led to his resignation amidst a Lake Washington school district investigation into his conduct.
Johnson officially pleaded not guilty to the charges of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes on Tuesday.
According to an internal investigation into Johnson's conduct, which was obtained by the Seattle Times, Johnson was first brought up for hugging a female student after a fellow Lake Washington student had committed suicide. While that effort might have seemed endearing or innocuous at the very least, the coach later began asking the same coach about her sex life during classwork. The coach followed that up with a Facebook friend request for the student and finally and the interactions concluded with more disturbing comments during a lunch period which eventually pushed the student to report the coach to administrators in December.
If that series of interactions wasn't enough, there's this: Johnson reportedly asked a male student in his class if he was going to "Sandusky" another male Lake Washington classmate when discussing the Penn State sex abuse scandal.
If true, that has to be among the most deplorable comments from a high school coach on record. And that says nothing of the deeper trauma that Johnson allegedly caused the female student who accused him of harassment.
For his part, Johnson has denied that he was responsible for any of the comments attributed to him, though he has resigned from his post and has not refuted his attempt to connect with the unnamed female student on Facebook. In his defense, the former coach claimed in a statement he was actually attempting to help the student in question, whom he claims was using illegal drugs.
"The allegations that lead (sic) to me being placed on administrative leave were made within twenty four hours of me asking a young person about their use of drugs," Johnson wrote in his letter of resignation. "That same young person admitted to me that they were using Animal Tranquilizers amongst (sic) other drugs. I was hoping to get that young person help. I realize that the way in which this was done could have been different. Outside of electronic communication, the allegations that were made about me are outrageous, unfounded and unsubstantiated."
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